In Night, the Jewish people of Sighet were not aware of what was happening in other parts of the world and were unaware of the coming danger.  Is it possible for a community to be so unaware today?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the question is a very relevant one.  However, I would pivot to suggest that Wiesel believes that the Jewish people of Sighet were in denial of what might happen to them.  Denial is something people can still experience today.  

In the exposition of Night, Wiesel shows that the Jewish people of Sighet understood what was happening in other parts of the world.  They had a keen awareness of how World War II was transpiring:

London radio, which we listened to every evening, announced encouraging news: the daily bombings of Germany and Stalingrad, the preparation of the Second Front. And so we, the Jews of Sighet, waited for better days that surely were soon to come.

The people of Sighet believed that Hitler would be repelled once and for all. In 1944, Wiesel writes that people of Sighet were encouraged by the "Splendid news from the Russian Front" that showed "no doubt: Germany would be defeated. It was only a matter of time, months or weeks, perhaps." These details reflect that the Jewish people in Sighet did have an awareness of what was happening in the world.  They did not withdraw from what was taking place.  On the contrary, they were highly cognizant of the war's trajectory and how it would impact their lives.

Wiesel suggests that the belief in Hitler's imminent defeat facilitated a sense of denial.  Wiesel follows up the news from the front with how many in Sighet believed that life was reverting back to normalcy: "It was a year like so many others, with its spring, its engagements, its weddings, and its births."  As the Soviet Army displayed progress against Nazi Germany, the townspeople "doubted [Hitler's] resolve to exterminate us."  Wiesel feels that such an attitude played a major role in what was to come: 

Annihilate an entire people? Wipe out a population dispersed throughout so many nations? So many millions of people! By what means? In the middle of the twentieth century! And thus my elders concerned themselves with all manner of things—strategy, diplomacy, politics, and Zionism, but not with their own fate.

Human beings display a propensity to believe that "it cannot be that bad." The people of Sighet wish to go back to "the way things were," a common response to difficult times.  For example, when Moshe the Beadle returns to warn them to avoid what he has seen, the townspeople discard him and silence him.  They say that his impressions are worthless and cannot represent what actually is happening.  In the same way, Wiesel shows that many people of Sighet rushed to embrace denial.  In their inability to accept the implications of what might happen, they avoided taking action because they "were not worried."

Regarding the connection between then and now, I would say that denial is a very common reality.  People often embrace it to avoid taking action.  Just as the people in Sighet were convinced that things would work out and were not worried, we still see instances today where action is not taken.  Genocide takes place in different parts of the world and there are individuals who refuse to do anything about it.  People still don't feel the need to take collective action in areas of the world such as Darfur, where more than 400,000 people have died and more than three million people have been displaced. The lack of a world response has to reflect how many are "not worried" about it.  

In Sighet, Wiesel shows many of the Jewish people downplaying the need to take action because they believe things will improve.  In Darfur, the world community has failed to act to prevent the slaughter that has gone on for more than a decade for presumably the same reason.  In both situations, the denial for the need to take action is evident.  Wiesel suggests that "bad things" happen when people embrace such a path.

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